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The Candidates Youth
Jeff grew up in Covington, Ohio, where his dad sometimes worked two or three jobs to provide for his family until he became an AFSCME union member. The resulting good pay and benefits allowed his family to become more financially stable, teaching Jeff a valuable lesson that guides his quest to represent us in Congress today. His mom stayed at home caring for Jeff and his five siblings and worked as a regional newspaper reporter. Jeff labored on local farms to earn spending money. His mom and dad were active volunteers in their church and community and Jeff soon followed in their footsteps. While in High School he participated in cross-country, basketball, and track before graduating as the class valedictorian.
University Training & Experience
After high school Jeff worked as a draftsman for a year before he began working his way through college. With the essential assistance of Pell grants, guaranteed loans, and the cooperative education program he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He learned that governmental programs have the power to enrich the lives of his fellow citizens, making him sensitive to the plight of others in search of a higher education. In addition to his studies, during his rare spare time he volunteered with the Big Brother/Big Sister organization.
New Beginnings: Marriage & Career
In 1983 Jeff married Jill Wenger of Middletown. They moved to Washington, D. C., where he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Electrification Administration (REA) during the Reagan administration. The REA (now Rural Utility Services/RUS) see to it that electricity is available to Ohio farm communities at affordable rates. After hours, Jeff and Jill worked in their church's soup kitchen and tutored inner-city children.
A Life Change: A Call To Service
Soon, their desire to make a difference in the world took them to the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa. For three years they assisted the regions poorest citizens administering health, education and agriculture programs. They helped farmers improve their annual yields while continuing to represent their church in the communities where they lived. While in the Kalahari (Botswana) they were blessed with the birth of their eldest daughter, Rachel, with midwives able assistance.
Jeff says, "my work in Africa changed me for the better. It even gave me my dry sense of humor. The village people taught me to be a listener, to learn from everyone I meet. They taught me to look at the world from another viewpoint, being thankful for what I have, because many others have much less. I hope to put those skills to work for the people of the 8th Congressional District."
Traveling with African co-workers in South Africa and Namibia during the apartheid years heightened Jeff's awareness of the realities and nuances of racism and challenged his own practices and beliefs. The strength and resourcefulness of the Africans, living under extreme drought and government oppression, made a strong impression that has remained with him even today. He was especially impressed with they way the African people, under extreme duress, held their families and communities together.
Return Home to Ohio
The Hardenbrook family later returned to the United States after 3 years in Africa. In 1990 they settled in East Dayton, a community they chose because of its diversity and because it allowed them to be near family. Together they co-founded and coordinated the Interfaith Hospitality Network, helping homeless families regain a foothold and be restored to stability. Jeff and Jill have continued their volunteer work in conjunction with St. Paul United Methodist Church, in Dayton. They were blessed during this time with two additional children, Sarah and Bram.
Immersion In Community Service
As a parent, Jeff strongly supports public education. He has volunteered with the Dayton Public Schools for more than ten years. As a teacher, tutor, and parent-teacher council representative, Jeff has become increasingly informed on the issues facing schools today. He helped the district expand the Montessori program to the middle school level, serving on planning committees and traveling to Columbus to lobby for equitable school funding. During this past decade he has worked to provide health care assistance with a focus on senior citizens and children in need.
The Lighter Side
Jeff swims and bikes regularly with his family, reads public policy publications & biographies, but they also like to catch an occasional good movie.